A startling mistake reveals the true meaning of Christmas | The Post

On Thanksgiving morning, as is our custom, we watched the Macy’s parade on Fifth Avenue in New York City on the big screen TV. I’m glad the first act was performed by those legendary dancers known as the Rockettes.

Roy Peter Clark
Roy Peter Clark

Seeing them always brings back fond memories, especially one. You see, one of the Rockettes and my daughter Lauren have something in common that we can both learn a lesson about being happy.

It’s been about a decade since the Clark family drove to Tampa to see the Rockettes’ Christmas holiday spectacle. Seeing all those gorgeous high-kick dancers brought back fond memories of childhood Christmases in New York City. I was not yet four years old when my Aunt Beatrice took me to Radio City Music Hall, where a musical comedy duo named Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis performed for us , the long-legged ladies are changing clothes.

What I don’t remember then is what happened in Tampa at the end of the Rockettes show: a spectacular Christmas extravaganza with live actors and live animals – including llamas! — Reenacting the story of the Nativity in narration, song, and glorious ceremony, the vivid imagery would put even the most ambitious opera production to shame.

I find myself a bit uneasy about this drama version of the nativity. Maybe it’s because I’ve always felt a greater connection to the parts of the Gospel story that focus on the poverty, displacement, and alienation of Mary and Joseph.

I pictured a young Jewish couple, living under the oppression of Roman occupation, traveling from their humble home in Nazareth to Joseph’s birthplace in Bethlehem for the census. They trek. He takes care of her. I can imagine their relief at approaching the inn for the night, and their disappointment at being turned away. Currently homeless, they have taken refuge where they keep animals, a difficult place for a young teenage girl to have her first child.

In the back of my mind, what was missing from this scene was all the showbiz bling, all the gold and spectacle that followed the Rockettes show.

Another incident that happened that night stood out to me even more in the spirit of the season. In the final dance – I think the girls are dressed like rag dolls – right in the middle of their signature kick line, a dancer, front and center, lands right on her ass. The crowd gasped. The girls on either side didn’t pause, helping her to her feet, smoothing out tiny imperfections in their symmetrical and synchronized gorgeous expressions.

I turned to my daughter Lauren and said, “Feeling better now?”

Have a great time with Hayes

Have a great time with Hayes

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Lauren has a degree in Musical Theater from the University of Tampa and is a regular singer and dancer in countless local productions. She was elegant and muscular: a troupe, in show business parlance.

But one day many years ago, on a big stage at the Mahaffey Theatre, in the middle of the kicking line, in front of hundreds of people, she kicked a little too high and found herself standing on that wooden stage precious Position meets hip. After the show, I hugged her and said “recovering well”.

But she was just a kid then. “Is it better now?” I said to the woman. I got a sweet look of approval.

Of course I love my daughter. We love our kids when they excel, and we probably love them even more when they stumble.

I also love that Rockette, her fall reminds me of what Christmas is really about. In the so-called “salvation history” in Christian theology, Jesus is the new Adam. The first Adam fell on his ass as we know it. If Adam’s sin meant the loss of heaven, it was a “happy sin” because it made possible the birth of God’s child, Jesus.

Despite the dancers’ intent to be perfect, everyone fell, and everyone recovered with the help of others. The audience focuses on the one who fell and celebrates her desire to move on.

This season more people than usual find themselves falling: from COVID, depression, poverty, addiction, intolerance, hurricanes. We want our leaders to work toward a recovery in which all boats will rise. Two thousand years ago, there was another family, and the story goes, they found shelter in a stable and gave birth to a baby in the dung and hay.

When that kid grew up, many of us believed in, the Anointed, Christ. The life he shaped was not one of gold, spectacle, and symphony, but of inevitable pain and loss. And the power of love that helps us heal. Feel better now?

Roy Peter Clark is a staff writer for the Tampa Bay Times.contact him rclark@poynter.org.